Can You Shave Against the Grain with a Safety Razor?

For many men, shaving is a daily ritual. An essential part of this ritual involves deciding whether to shave with the grain (in the direction hair grows) or against the grain (opposite to the direction of the hair growth). However, shaving against the grain may cause irritation, ingrown hairs, razor bumps, and even cuts.

This guide will answer when you should (and shouldn’t) shave against the grain along with all the careful steps you need to follow when doing so.

Is it Possible to Shave Against the Grain with a Safety Razor?

The simple answer is, yes, it is possible to shave against the grain with a safety razor. However, whether or not you should do so depends on several factors including your skin’s sensitivity, your shaving technique, and the type and sharpness of the blade you’re using.

Considerations When Shaving Against the Grain

The following are some of the crucial factors to consider before deciding to shave against the grain:

Skin SensitivityIf you have sensitive skin or are prone to irritation, it’s better to avoid shaving against the grain. This method can be more aggressive and may cause more irritation.
Shaving TechniqueProper technique is key for a successful against-the-grain shave. Failure to properly angle your safety razor or applying too much pressure can lead to cuts and nicks.
Blade SharpnessUsing a dull blade leads to tugging and pulling, which can cause discomfort and potentially result in ingrown hairs or razor bumps.

Shaving Against the Grain: How to Do It Safely

Following the correct technique is vital when shaving against the grain to minimize potential skin irritation and damage. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you do it safely:

Step 1: Prep Your Skin

Per the American Academy of Dermatology, a good shave should always start with a clean face. Before you begin, wash your face with warm water and a mild cleanser to remove dirt, oil, and dead skin cells. This process also softens your facial hair, making it easier to cut. As Men’s Journal explains, taking a warm shower or applying a hot towel on your face can further open the pores, soften the beard, and prepare your skin for a closer shave.

Step 2: Apply a Pre-Shave Oil

Pre-shave oil softens the beard and provides additional lubrication, enhancing the glide of the razor and providing another layer of protection for your skin.

Not only that, pre-shave oil is claimed to help prevent skin irritations such as razor burn and ingrown hairs by creating a barrier between the skin and the razor. To apply, use a small amount of oil and massage it gently onto your face, paying special attention to sensitive areas or particularly coarse hairs.

Step 3: Lather Up

Apply a good quality shaving cream or soap with a shaving brush in a bowl or mug. This helps further soften the hair, lift it off the skin and provide a buffer, reducing friction between the razor and your skin. Make sure to create a rich lather for optimal results.

The reason why a lather is crucial lies in its ability to provide sufficient cushioning and glide for the razor, ensuring a smooth, comfortable shave. In addition, the lather helps to maintain moisture, keeping your skin hydrated during the shaving process. As a result, you’re less likely to experience irritation and dryness after your shave.

Step 4: Start Shaving With the Grain

Always start by shaving with the grain. This way, you reduce the length of the hair before going against the grain, decreasing the risk of cuts, razor bumps, and skin irritation. Use short strokes and maintain a 30-degree angle with the handle of the safety razor, following the direction of hair growth.

While some adventerous folks may skip this step and go directly against the grain, this is not recommended, as the longer growth is more likely to cause problems such as tugging, pulling, and discomfort. Additionally, longer hairs can clog your razor and negatively affect the performance of the blade.

Step 5: Shave Against the Grain

After you’ve completed the first pass with the grain, re-lather, and make a second pass against the grain for a close shave. Remember to apply minimal pressure and let the weight of the razor do the work.

For a much closer shave, you may consider using a three-pass method: first with the grain, then across the grain (perpendicular to hair growth), and finally against the grain.

Step 6: Post-Shave Care

Rinse your face with cold water to close the pores and apply a soothing aftershave balm or lotion to help your skin recover and reduce any redness or irritation. Aftershaves are full of emollients that’ll help to restore the mositure and soothe the skin.

To make your shaving experience even better, consider applying a cold towel or ice pack to your face for a few minutes to further reduce inflammation and promote healing. Additionally, keeping your skin moisturized and hydrated will contribute to its overall health and help prevent irritation in the future.

About the author:

John Miller is a passionate wet shaving enthusiast, a pastime he has been devoted to for the past 7 years. A veteran of the trade, he has earned the reputation of being an meticulous advocate of traditional wet shaving. When John first got into the hobby, he read and researched the techniques extensively, often trying new blades and techniques, and now has an unparalleled knowledge of the best products, techniques, and tools available.

John is widely respected in the wet shaving community and is a trusted source of advice and reviews. He also contributes to several wet shaving forums, often discussing the finer points of traditional shaving.